dbdumonteil

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The Well
(1951)

Solidarity
An absorbing movie which roughly fetaures two parts :

-a young black girl falls into a well and the whole town suspects a white man , who claims his innocence ; the populace is not far from plunging the whole town into a huge race riot ,the victim being almost a pretext .

  • the second part is close to documentary ,people stand together , blacks and whites form some kind of chain to save a human being ;the falsely accused man , probably a civil engineer ,forgets his rancour and lends a helping hand .THis is
a story of a victory over racial prejudice and a great lesson in humanity.

Fly-By-Night
(1942)

A doctor ..and a fugitive!
More than "the thirty-nine steps" , Siodmak 's movie will remind you of another HItchcock's work ,"saboteur" ,released the same year ,starring Robert Cummings and Priscilla Lane whose characters are close to those of Richard Carlson and Nancy Kelly ;he's a fugitive ,chased by the strong arm of the law and she's dragged (reluctantly ) into the plot by him because "she can sketch a portrait of him,which would help the police".

The chase movie is not Siodmak's field: his is the gangsters saga ("the killers" "criss cross" with plenty of treasons ) or the psychological thriller ("the spiral staircase" "the dark mirror " "black angel" );but he pulls it off efficiently.

There's a lot a humor (the burning cigarettes,the fake wedding) ,plenty of suspense (the loony bin) and never a dull moment in this exciting man/woman hunt.

Of course the ending is exactly what you expect ,but it's the rule of the game.

Asphalte
(1959)

Take a (little) walk on the wild side.
At the time ,screenwriter Jacques Sigurd was a spent force : " dédée d'anvers" "une si jolie petite plage " and "manèges" seemed very far away ; "cargaison blanche" ,"du mouron pour les petits oiseaux " and the ridiculous "constance aux enfers" or worse "le désert de Pigalle " were hollow echoes of a brilliant past.

And Hervé Bromberger ,who gave two interesting movies about the lost generation of the fifties ("les fruits sauvages" "les loups dans la bergerie" ) ,gets lost in this poor story of a working class girl turned bourgeoise via marriage and ,for a while takes a walk on the wild side where she meets again her old pals ,one of whom accidently commits a murder .Nicole (Françoise Arnoul ) is not really involved in the yarn and she looks like a tourist coming to see the milieu in which she was nurtured ;one may think , anyway,that the ending is distastefully bourgeois .

This is a slow-moving flick,something like "the NV visits the young louts "; except for Marcel Bozzuffi , whom one rarely sees young,and who was to become a strong supporting actor, the rest of the young actors quickly sank into oblivion: Jean-François Poron (part of the cast of " les loups dans la bergerie" and future duke of Nemours in "la princesse de Clèves" ) and Jean-Paul Vignon who went to work in America (his wish ,but Charles Boyer's and Louis Jourdan's reality).Roger dumas ,in spite of his youthful looks, is the most endearing.

Needless to say,Massimo Girotti is wasted .

Night Watch
(1973)

He only comes out at night
Based on a play by the brilliant Lucile Fletcher ("sorry wrong number" ,who gave Barbara Stanwyck one of her best roles, "80 dollars to Stanford" ...) , this is a good thriller with many red herrings. The heroine is seeing things (in the night ,horrified, she sees a dead body ) ,and as she has a tormented past ,she might sink ,slowly but inexorably ,into complete madness.Or is it a set up? Her husband is considerate,but there is another woman in the house ,and she may be his lover : do they want to have her sent to a sanatorium? One of talented Laurence Harvey's last part :he was to die prematurely of cancer shortly after.Billie Whitelaw is ideally cast as a disturbing woman (see "the omen") which might (or might not) be dangerous.

An underrated thriller.

Rocketman
(2019)

These are your songs.
Very good biopic , with a stunning performance by Taron Egerton :the most successful artist of the first half of the seventies really comes alive ;many songs are included and it is a well-chose menu : they fit into the action quite well ,particularly "tiny dancer" and the title song ,perhaps the highlight of the whole movie . Jamie Bell gives strong support as Bernie Taupin and he has the most moving line of the script "yes I love you ,Elton,but not that way!"He's the sensible guy who hardly knows his good friend in his extravaganzas, his flashy costumes ,and he's the one who saved his life ,not only tonight as Elton sang in 1975 ,but later,when he made his descent into Hell. This is also a beautiful story of friendship.

O Cangaceiro
(1969)

Black god and black gold.
To call it a spaghetti western would be demean the movie;it's an intellectual work , certainly smarter than most of this kind of production.

The beginning ,notably ,is almost a divine intervention ,which the presence of a priest and a girl named Maria reinforces ;Espedito will be the savior,the "redeemer" who will help the poor and fight the powers to be (the arrival of the bishop ,welcomed by the army,is worthy of Bunuel .

Espedito's stature is so impressive he scares the governor he meets thanks to a Dutch engeneer ,with whom he becomes friends; the dinner in the palace is almost surrealist as those crude peasants mixing with high-born ladies covered with jewels . The Dutch friend remains ambiguous ; there are economic interests at stake : the oil they can get for a song is the reason why they tolerate the Redeemer ...who confesses he never was a savior ;in fact he was only a pawn in their game which they used to get rid of the other outlaws .Gangsters come to the rescue for the sake of the buck .A lot of deaths all along the movie and an unusual relationship between the congaceiro and the blond European .

Lourdes
(2019)

A phenomenon
For those who have faith ,no explanation is necessary ;for those who have not,no explanation is possible.This warning appears at the beginning of "the song of Bernadette " which starred Jennifer Jones.

"Lourdes " is a remarkable documentary ; there's no voice-over ,no real comment ;no time is given over to the moneychangers of the Temple -who are numerous- and the fact that Lourdes is the second hotel town in France is passed over in silence .

Most of the time is devoted to the visitors : the sick of course, a girl rejected by the youngsters her age in her school , a (male) prostitute ;and the role of the nurses , the people who accompany the suffering along the way are not overlooked ,we catch glimpses of scouts (who have always been a great help for disabled person ).And there are also soldiers,the legionnaires' pilgrimage to Lourdes is de rigueur.

The voices we hear are theirs ,not that of a famous actor who recites a comment. The disabled does soul-searching: why would the Lord heal me? why me? My neighbor is ,in HIS eyes ,as important as I am; the girl ill-at-ease with herself does not cheer up very much ,in spite of her father's desperate encouragements but will return to her school and perhaps her faith will help her be accepted by her mate; the prostitute feels guilt,he often promises to give up this job he loathes ,but finds it hard to give up ;may be this time ,maybe ....

Watching a movie such as this one can help us become a better human being.

To touch the wall of the cave is indispensable ,it's a sacred ritual

In Secret
(2013)

Mommy dearest.
It was not the first time Jessica Lange had played an overpossessive mother;just check "hush" .

The most famous French version of the novel is Marcel Carné's (1953)starring Simone Signoret and Raf Vallone ;in both versions ,it's the mother-in law who walks out with the honors and literally blows her co-stars off the stage :both Sylvie and Lange are the stand-outs .

Whereas Carné's version was transferred to modern times and sometimes dramatically wandered from the novel ,this one is much more faithfull. Locating the action in the 19th century was more relevant for at the time an orphan girl without a dowry had little choice :her marriage with sickly Camille made more sense than in the fifties .The pictures depicting the gloomy shop are dark and close to a living hell where the poor wife finds solace "in secret" between two domino games ;these games are given a convincing treatment and as one of the players says :"it smells mortuary" and not only because he works in such a lugubrious place.

The Lange /Tom Felton (who sometimes recall Terence Stamp)pair overshadows somewhat the lovers ; Madame Raquin is in awe of (and in love with) her offspring and afraid to be alone (hence the second marriage).But in the second part,if look could kill,hers certainly would.

located first near Vernon ,Normandy ,although the landscapes do not evoke this region ,but the cinematography on location is really dazzling.

Chacun pour tous
(2018)

All for one and one for all!
The paralympic games do not attract a large audience when they are broadcast and it is certainly unfair ;based on real facts -but it happened to a Spanish team-, this film shows respect for mentally retarded people and there're no bad jokes about them.

The results do not fulfill all hopes though ;Of course,you can't do wrong with Darroussin :he is such a gifted actor than even when the scenes are clumsy,he manages to save something from the wreckage ;to my eyes ,the best scene does not concern the paralympic games : his own daughter is mentally retarded ,which probably explains why he devotes his life to train handicapped people ; when he's told that his girls' drawings are "not bad for a her ", we deeply feel his fit of anger .Unlike the others, money does not mean much to him ,but a gold medal would make his daughter's day.

A team with only two true mentally retarded players ;the others are "normal";best support comes from the former ; the fakes do not even try to sound " weak IQ", they speak English (!)and most of their conversations deal with girls (there's the obligatory sex scene); when in Sydney ,there's too much filler ,and the movie only works when Darroussin intervenes ,sadly unsupported by his psychologist (the meeting with the fake players is the only one when they can really pass for mentally retarded guys;afterward she takes naiveté to new limits before realizing ,just before the finale ,that she's been fooled .)A turgid finale enhanced by Pachelbel-inspired "run and tears"

Given the potential of the subjects ,it is a missed opportunity and ,but I tip my hat to Darroussin and the two "real" team-mates .

La morte ha fatto l'uovo
(1968)

Egg on Gina to modernize her chicken run!
Now that organic food has become part of our lives,now that chicken must have access to open air ( when it's written on the box , it sells) , "la morte" has an ecological contemporary feel (the researcher goes into raptures over " these chicken without head ,only meat, packaging made easier").It is a spoof on the consumer society disguised as thriller : the economics problems are given more time than the "setup" ,;mechanization walks hand in hand with unemployment and it is not passed over in silence .

This fowl is a cruel kind of animal ,and it shows with the numerous clos-ups of gallinaceous heads ; the avertising executive's drawings are almost frightening .And the viewer feels ill-at-ease when he is taken along the huge henhouse. The chicken-like bourgeois ,in the wife-swapping scene ("we act like the fowl")are given a treatment close to that of Claude Chabrol ,which the presence of French actor Jean -Louis trintignant reinforces : he was part of a menage à trois in "Les Biches" (1967),in which there was a lesbian relationship too .

Tempi nostri - Zibaldone n. 2
(1954)

Slices of life and life only.
Second series of sketches released under the title "tempi nostri" (our time) ;half French actors,half Italian ones, all the segments are enjoyable ,some even highly estimable .They are linked by a pantomime featuring Marcel Marceau .

Segment one: "a kiss is just a kiss" :François Périer ,Dany Robin ;very short ,half silent , it's more a taste of the things to come :is a man (a woman) really passionate when he(she) kisses ;or does he think that he needs a haircut ;and does she think that her hose has a run in them?

Segment two: " playing hooky" :Yves Montand, Danielle Delorme . A schoolteacher ,full of joie de vivre ,meets a lost girl down in the dumps :she starts to enjoy life again,thanks to small things: a modest meal in a cafe, an evening in a movie theater showing a Chaplin film ,morning croissants .An exquisite slice of life:romantic but not mawkish.

Segment three : "it's a wonderful life" :Michel Simon, Sylvie . Two monstres sacrés of the French cinema ,for our greatest pleasure. Simon portrays a colorful stubborn vicar ; Sylvie is a washerwoman whose life has been drab and poor:washing ,a frugal meal (bread dipped in olive oil) ,washing again with for sole companion a she-goat .She's got something sineful to tell her priest,but cannot bring herself to confession .Wonderful story,with a Capraesque denouement at that!

Segment four : "ticket to ride" :Vittorio De Sica,Maria Fiore . First sketch of the batch featuring Italian thespians : De Sica is a bus driver who wants to marry his protégé to a dull Michele (we never see) ; after a wild ride through the streets of Napoli , with American tourists (all female) ,he discovers what he 's known for a long time ; pleasant, eventful , but a bit conventional .

Segment five : "somebody's baby" :Marcello Mastroianni,Lea Padovani Another mouth to feed ;one child too many ; the young couple decides to abandon their baby in a church ,but not any church :mamma wants to like it and daddy remains passive; both still love their boy, mom even tries to breast- feed him....in this sacred place, to the local vicar's displeasure .A good parody of the old melodramas, laughing at their clichés, it ends as a farce .

Segment six: "grow old along with me,the best is yet to be" :Vittorio De Sica,Maria Denis,Alberto Sordi,Sophia Loren. By far the best of the two segments in which De Sica appears : two has-beens are hired as extras in a film ,they met when they were young but were never be able to take the plunge :they were never lovers. Now they are getting old (60, 53 going on 54) ,and while the camera films the stars who have to repeat their lines till the director is satisfied,they have to go round and round in a barouche ;their conversation is interrupted by the "cut" yelled by the director.The viewer realizes that the principals are actually the extras , and vice versa ;probably the best segment ,because it deals with the seventh art and is a reductio ad aburdum that it will never be stronger than life.A brilliant finale for what is finally an optimistic series of stories.

Coup dur chez les mous
(1956)

What's wrong with that?
Another vehicle for Raymond Souplex and Jeanne Sourza who often worked in tandem ; the latter appears late in the movie and her screen time is rather short for a top billing.

Ernest is an honest sales representative .He accidentally swaps his suitcase for that of gangsters who have just burglarized a jeweler store .The policemen,who wanted to catch the robbers in the act, find a suitcase full of brushes and Ernest is arrested.Gigi,the gangsters' moll , mistakes him for a tough guy and helps him to escape from jail.He reluctantly becomes the thieves' boss.

And an efficient boss,at that!This a cock and bull screenplays,but often funny,with occasionally a good line or two : higgledy-piggledy , an unconsummated marriage, a broke suicidal Russian countess, one of the gangsters dressed up as a vicar, a coffin full of loot , a smart police lieutenant (Jean Tissier) who points out that you cannot pluck cherries on an oak tree ,a woman lying on the railroad track waiting for the train to run over her ,but forgets the switching;and a stirring joyful final song "Y'a pas de mal à ça " (=what's wrong with that ?)!

Les étoiles restantes
(2016)

Some have gone and some remain....
Sonny ,all along your life,some people you meet are just passing through :these are the shooting stars ; others will remain :those are the staying stars (hence the title).

Crystal clear ,huh?This movie is rather short (75 min) ,but it is very talky ,including soul-searching, meditation,job interviews ,interminable conversations about the meaning of life, the cancerous dad's soon-to-come death-he gave up his treatment .Only the father plays his game well,injecting more emotion than his co-stars the hero is not particularly endearing ,essentially concerned about his own persona ; his pal ,Loris ,seems to be out of the late sixties hip movies dealing with Indian philosophies ;the girl seems a bit arrogant ,but in the end ,bland and insignificant .

Some call that artistic,I'll call it arty.The story is desperately short of humor,impact is lacking.Even the splendid landscapes of Britanny are badly filmed.

If this movie teaches you how to lead a fulfilled life ,then I'd rather be dead.

Rémi sans famille
(2018)

Sans famille: a road movie.
People do not read Malot's novel that much anymore nowadays ; but it was often tranferred to the screen: two miniseries (the later starring Pierre Richard as Vitalis,the former starring Petula Clark as Mrs Milligan) .

Two versions for the silver screen were made before this one: Marc Allégret 's (1934) which is the most faithful to the novel,featuring wunderkind Robert Lynen and André Michel's (1958) which was a big disappointment.

This one has qualities :by no means an improvement on the thirties version ,it features an excellent Vitalis portrayed by the always reliable Daniel Auteuil ;by and large , till the episode in England , the work is successful, particularly the harrowing separation with Mère Barberin (but we are deprived of the famous crepes scene); the gendarmes arresting Vitalis because he's got no permit to perform , which shows how social injustice was hard on the poor in the nineteenth century); likewise, Mrs Harper (Virginie Ledoyen ) who ,oddly ,replaces Mrs Milligan on her boat (the Swan)?keeps her distance from that common busker who eventually cuts her down to size; the scenes when the animals intervene -although Vitalis's troupe has been drastically reduced- are well acted ; the cinematography is a feast for the eye and the music is tuneful.Add a good chemistry between the man and the child.

It goes without saying that "sans famille" was a two-volume novel,an exponential melodrama that was impossible to treat in a 100- minute film; so exit Garofoli , Mattia ( his absence was already noticed by an user) , Arthur (Mrs Milligan's sickly son replaced on the boat by a disabled girl,Lise ,who appears later in the novel).

The last third is botched ;Vitalis died long before his protégé got to England in the novel ;there's a nice panoramic of London town under the snow and that's it ;the Driscoll family is given a treatment a la Dickens (who anyway was a strong influence on Malot),but one can wonder why they scarcely speak their first language whereas the Milligan do .Using English would have increased Remi's terror.

Even more questionable is the tale presented as a long flashback ; Jacques Perrin who portrays the old Rémi had probably in mind "Les Choristes " (see the posters on the wall) a blockbuster he produced in the naughties .The first scene ,notably ,is downright heavy-handed.

The Driscoll/Milligan affair looks like it has just been stuck onto the rest of the story ;it would certainly have been better to introduce Mrs Milligan on the boat (with or without Arthur).

Two thirds of the movie are good, so you make it on the percentages, but lose out on the bonuses ; for a film aimed at the children's market, that's still good value and can appeal to the whole family.

The October Man
(1947)

Marple and Poirot ,where are you ?
A very good performance by John Mills in an old-fashioned whodunit .As he was seriously injured in an accident , he has become a brittle vulnerable man .So when a murder is committed near the boarding-house where he lives ,it's only natural he is the main suspect.

As the spiteful old spinsters in the place are not Miss Marple ,and Hercule Poirot is not at hand ,the suspect has to lead his own investigation .The whodunit is by no means as strong as Mrs Christie's and the truth is revealed at least twenty minutes before the end,but interest and suspense are sustained throughout .

J'ai perdu Albert
(2018)

Albert does not live here anymore.
Albert Eistein's stubborn spirit speaks in Chloé's mind ;he wants to save the world and particularly the bees ; so the medium is in great demand among the politicians and the wealthy (" I don't charge the poor" says she)persons . But one fine day ,while she is strolling in the mall ,Albert chooses another person,a waiter (who is also a beekeeper)

This could have been a very funny movie ,and not derivative at that ,because a heroine who is not a brilliant lawyer or a fearless journalist,it makes all the difference !

Unfortunately ,the story is peppered with coarse sex scenes which does not bring anything to the plot,and a poor dialogue full of four-letter words does not help.

Now and then ,there's a good idea:the spoof on the TV debates works, but the "political " official secret does not .It's true that the bees are endangered species and that their disappearance can be a disaster for the ecosystem , but apart from some beehives , this problem is mooted only to justify the happy end. The heroine's final soul-searching cannot be taken seriously in what is finally a farce.

One can save ,at a pinch,Josiane Balasko ,a cougar whose young husband is a gigolo and who ceaselessly frets .

Fortuna
(2018)

Sanctuary!
Filmed in stark black and white, bald, austere , slow-moving , "Fortuna" reminds the viewer of Robert Bresson's first movies.

Fortuna ,an Ethopian refugee is given shelter ,with other people ,in a monastery in the mountains ;is the right of asylum the old sanctuary of the Middle -Ages?

People from various religions :the heroine is a true believer who puts her trust in Virgin Mary.She's pregnant by a young married muslim who already has his own family.Fortuna prays ceaselessly for her parents'return ;she is obsessed by water (after a long voyage by sea,she winds up in a bare land covered with snow ;she hints at the Biblical Deluge )

The monks themselves (one of them played by highly talented Bruno Ganz ) have their moments of doubt: can we accept that the police violate our sacred place? Can this girl have an abortion? Is the Church always right? Is it infallible when they deal with good and bad?

The ending is open although the last picture gives us a clue.

Qui plume la lune?
(1999)

He who plucks the moon lets it snow.
Sophomore effort by Christine Carrière whose first film " Rosine" was outstanding.

As "Rosine " introduced an immature mother ,a misfit unable to take care of her fourteen -year-old girl who had to hold the role of a mother, "Qui plume La Lune ?" features a father whose wife died of cancer and who cannot get over it : he ,too,is a misfit whose two daughters are left to their own devices : the first scene shows a genial man playing ghosts with his offspring , but dad 's got a chip on his shoulder and he is no longer part of the society, he does not try to find another woman,he dreams when at work. Besides ,his mom is rather possessive ;the annoucement in the supermarket is revealing :" We're looking for Lucien (he is a forty-something) ;come to the nearest service desk!"

Everything rests on Darroussin's shoulders ;the director put the weight on him and he brilliantly carried it ; the results are inferior to "Rosine " though ; Christine Carrière's first effort introduced three strong characters and her screenplay was faultless throughout .Here we deal with two daughters and one mother who often get in the way ,when they are not downright embarrassing (the mother who tells she feels tires every time she wants to see her lover,one of the daughters having a go at prostitution !);In the second half , the story becomes sprawling ,the actors but Darroussin begin to overplay ....

But this wonderful actor,whose hangdog looks and wistful depression saves something from the wreckage,tells us so : there's someone up there who plucks the moon when it snows.

The Southerner
(1945)

Come harvest time,we'll work it out.
"The southerner " is easily the best movie Renoir made in America ,the only movie which equals his French masterpieces of the thirties.

A chronicle of a family who stands together,facing adversity with a courage which never fails .A poet with a camera ,the director films the cotton fields and the river banks as lovingly as he did once in "Une Partie De Campagne"(1936)

Except for the first sequence ,which he treats with admIrable restraint ,Renoir's mastery of his art compels respect and admiration: when the situation is taking a tragic turn, he defuses it : the son's spring illness is paralleled by an unexpected rat race in a bar about a five- dollar bill; the neighbor's intended murder and the miraculous draught of fishes; the final disaster in the flooded fields and the desire to carry on :they'll do it again ,come what may!The strength of the blood ties can overcome everything .Even the grumpy grandma (a memorable perforlance by Beulah bondi) has faith.

Rosine
(1994)

Though you feel at times you just can't win, sing,children ,sing.
It was Christine Carrère 's first work: an important director was born ,whose filmography includes such remarkable movies such as "qui plume la lune?","darling" (perhaps the most depressive French movie of the naughties") "une mère " (with Mathilde Seignier who starred in this first effort.)

Christine Carrière is a female Kenneth Loach whose closest relatives in the French-speaking cinema are the Dardennes bros (one often thinks of "Rosetta" while watching "Rosine") and Robert Guédiguian .Like all of them, Mrs Carrière shows social concerns and a deep sympathy for the underdogs of a ruthless society.

This director is particularly good at characterization :her unfortunate heroes move in a drab suburb in the north of France her camera catches in minute details: the houses where large families cram, the yards with their clothes lines fluttering in the wind, the jardins ouvriers ( small plots of land rented for gardening) ,the chilly banks of the canal...

An unwed mom,Marie ,lives here with her daughter Rosine.The roles are reversed : Marie, in her head, is still twenty and Rosine is left to her own devices This plight has made her grow in maturity ,she's actually the mother,who takes care of the house,with sparse help from Chantal ,a neighbor.To escapes a doomed living, she takes refuge in music :her dream is to become a singer when she grows up ,and if she goes to church ,it's not to pray the Lord ,but to sing in the chorus (one has understood that long before the long letter the girl sends to the vicar).She's got a friend (a girl) who cannot really comprehend her situation .A dead end.

When the father returns ("don't kid yourself,the neighbor says , he comes back because he's got no house -he lives in a trailer- and no woman'),Rosine is confronted with a man who did not even know after getting Marie pregnant that she had given birth to a baby girl: "Whom are you talking to? " an infuriated father asks "I don't know" the daughter answers .The father in the house only makes the matters worse :he is a lazy selfish man ,who ,on the pretext of teaching her daughter to drive,touches her up and there's worse to come. Besides ,he is jealous of the " ugly boy" with whom Rosine makes friends :a strawberry mark spoils his looks ,but the director shows the right profile first . Dead end.

Rosine really got a raw deal :Eloise Charretier is touching ,in a performance devoid of self-pitying and pathos.Matching her every step of the (hard) way is Mathilde Seignier's helpless immature woman who has never been a mother.

Highly recommended .

Nos amis les flics
(2004)

Caramel calls daffodil!
The story is derivative and the unexpected twist as old as the hills ,but....

this little comedy is very entertaining ,and you often laugh heartily !

The screenplay is downright muddled, but who cares ? It's a mishmash where real two-bit gangsters , false and real policemen (check the title: "our friends the cops" ) play hide and seek in a police station ,in a museum and in a bank.

Daniel Auteuil's presence on the screen is rather short ,but he's excellent in his part of tough guy (ouch !my fingers!) parodying Tarentino's sadistic heroes. Frederic Diefenthal ,although cast against type ,is riotously funny ,always looking stupefied and overtaken by events ;sexy Armelle Deutsch steals the show in the scene when she makes a formal complaint about a so-called rape , as "Boop Betty" .

Not much food for thought but a lot of fun is guaranteed for all!

Conrack
(1974)

I can't get over and nor I have wings to fly.
In "Sounder" ,a movie Ritt had made two years before, a black father urged his son to go to school ;social concern has always been present in this director's work ; and education is the only way to "sail across the wide water " :incidentally his ultimate movie "Stanley And Iris" is the story of an illiterate (Robert de Niro) whose teacher is none other than Jane Fonda.

The young hero of "Sounder",David ,could be Mr Conroy's pupil ;the teacher he meets en route to see his dad unfairly sentenced to hard labor is a close relative of Conroy.

Facing a (black) headmistress who teaches her pupils to know their place and strongly advise her colleague to use the hard way , Conrack' s methods remind the viewer of such educationalists as John Dewey (learning by doing) ,and in Europa ,Celestin Freinet and Maria Montessori.

When he arrives in his classroom, the children are abysmally ignorant and he has to invent a new way to get his knowledge through : he looks like a thespian on stage and he wins over the viewer himself, notably in the admirable music lesson (but why passing over in silence black artists?)

Like Nathan in "Sounder" , Conrack does believe that education is the only way not to know your place and to fight for a square deal when you are an underdog ;the long speech in the car along the streets speaks volumes about those who got a raw deal .

Jon Voight is absolutely tremendous ,an Oscar -caliber performance indeed .

Marche ou crève
(2018)

Long hard climb.
Like a bolt from the blue "feel good " cinema scene .

Based on her own true story,Margaux Bonhomme did not choose the easy way out.Warts and all best depicts her movie which might be unbearable for some viewers ;the reviews were mixed in France where the director was accused of giving a clumsy self-pitying rendition of her hard years;It was proved wrong when both thespians were awarded prizes for best actresses.

Diane Rouxel is actually sober in her portrayal of a girl who sacrifices her studies and her own time to her multi -disabled sister Manon;her commitment to her sibling is extraordinary ,recalling sometimes Anne Bancroft's admirable performance in " miracle worker" ;she really puts her heart and soul into it. The same goes for Jeanne Cohendy's playing which is so realistic that I thought they had hired a real disabled person : like a dislocated puppet, moaning, whining,squealing all through the movie, her performance is so intense that the viewer feels sometimes like putting his fingers in his ears .It takes a lot of guts to hold such a thankless part.

Good support by Cedric Kahn as the devoted father who explains how to deal with the unfortunate Manon to the dull -witted helper who ties the poor girl to her chair .The mother ,on the other hand ,seems selfish and does not seem to care anymore :her best wish is to get rid of this "real nuisance " by putting her in a center for disabled persons.

Moments of happiness are few and far between : bathing in the river (but where the sisters almost get drowned) ; the parade when one of the musicians invites Manon to dance to the music (but which makes the last picture even more bitter and depressing).

Filmed in the mountain,with a great economy of means , "Marche Ou Crève" (=do or die) ,is a gut-wrenching performance.

Toujours seuls
(1991)

Who has stolen the TV?
Warning : fans of Annie GIRARDOT,beware! her appearance does not exceed fifteen minutes .

"Always alone" may seem an odd title for a movie in which twelve (and even thirteen with the return of the prodigal son who spent some time in the nick) persons cram into a three -room flat in a drab suburb .All the story is told by the youngest child of the family (who eventually finds the right way to get out of this dump).The writers wanted probably to show us that is an unfair society , you are always alone ,in spite of a large family, when you deal with your personal problems

A film made of sketches best describes a confusing screenplay ,in which the actors (with the exception of Girardot and Philippe Caroit as a sewing-machines rep on the dole ) try to hog the stage each one more so than the other;witty lines are few and far between ("I like cats because there are no police cats")

Fugueuses
(1995)

Sometimes I feel like a motherless child.
"Fugueuses "aka "Une fille galante" suffers from a confusing screenplay ,which may be unpalatable for some people ; a turgid score does not help.

It owes a lot to the sadly missed Marie Trintignant, here directed by her own mother ;her strange beauty ,almost disturbing,works wonders in a part of an ambiguous woman, in search of a mother (and a father? She was the lover of a man (Daniel Gélin)who could be her father),twice confronted to death in the movie .

By usurping her friend's name and identity ,she tries to find a new mother (Nicole Garcia) to whom she sends letters .

Although primarily a psychological drama, Trintignant's movie verges on the fantasy genre : the death of Prune's dad,her mysterious disappearance , Prune 's mother odd behavior -who never shows her disapproval and never really embraces her new "daughter" .All this and the splendid Portuguese landscapes make "Fugueuses " an enticing work albeit a not very accessible one.

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